How we do it
The cows graze grass out in the fields from spring till autumn. The fields are split into small paddocks so the cows only spend a few days in each one before moving onto a new paddock and allowing the grass to re-grow in the ones they have left. They return after about 21 days.
When the ground becomes too wet in the autumn the cows are housed in well-ventilated sheds. There is an old Shropshire saying ‘cows eat with one mouth and four feet’ When the ground is wet and soft the cows’ hooves sink in, pushing the grass into the soil. As a cow takes a mouthful of grass she moves forward and her four feet squash four areas of grass making them in-edible.
When they are housed they eat grass and arable silages. That is surplus spring grass that has been chopped up and put between concrete walls and rolled to remove as much air as possible and then sealed under plastic sheets. In anaerobic conditions certain bacteria produce lactic acid which pickles the grass and preserves it for winter feed. The same is done to arable crops while the grains are still soft and green later in the year.
The cows are also fed a mixture of crushed homegrown cereals and bought in protein.
Like all mammals, cows need a good balanced diet.
What we grow and produce
Selling milk, produced by the cows, to ARLA is the mainstay of the business. We also sell one-month-old beef calves to local farmers or keep them until they are about 7 months old and then sell them. It all depends on the value of calves at the time of selling.
In the past we have sold some surplus wheat, but all of it is now used to feed the livestock.
All this is done using Integrate Farm Management principles and we are kept on track by using LEAF’s Sustainable Farm Review. We are farm assured by the Red Tractor scheme and the ARLA CARE scheme in which we have to graze the cows on grass for a minimum 120 days a year.
We also produce electricity from 20Kw of solar voltaic panels on the cow housing roof. Some is used on the farm the rest goes into the National Grid.
There is also a 60kw log boiler that produces hot water to wash the milking equipment and to heat several buildings. The timber for this comes from the farm woodlands.
We also produce or manage wildlife habitats on the farm.
There are 6-metre margins around many of the fields, some south-facing ones are floristically diverse. Wild bird crops that produce over winter feed of seeds for native and over-wintering birds and small mammals.
Fenced-off pools and ditches. Hedges that are cut only every third year, which leaves the fruits and berries to feed birds and mammals over winter. The woods are managed to provide open areas and different age structures. Nectar and pollen-rich areas for insects.
This does not provide any income directly but Natural England, a government agency have an agri-environmental scheme that fund some of these activities. So it is not all altruistic.
Trials and errors in farming
See what environmental work we do and how we make it work with farming,
Check out our photos of the farm,
Here you can find what we are currently up to.
3 year red clover/ grass ley or on some fields herbal leys or 5-year white clover/ grass ley. These build soil fertility and organic matter as well as being good for the cattle with a mix of sugars, proteins and minerals. The legumes turn atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates to feed themselves and surrounding plants. On a rotation of fields in temporary crops; one of two is ploughed( May) after 1st cut silage. Either a catch crop sown; peas/spring barley for cutting as arable silage or kale to graze min-till, Cultivating the top few centimetres for winter wheat in the autumn. The following summer after harvest min-till winter barley. eadnutrients and give a constant growing crop to protect the soil.
In the spring that is grazed off by cattle and the field(s) ploughed and sown barley and peas and undersown with a grass/clover or herbal mix cut as silage in July and then returned to the grass rotation.
The logic behind this rotation is to build up nutrients in the soil and then harvest them in the arable crops, especially phosphates and nitrates so they do not leach into surrounding water courses. It is also useful to control weeds such as docks which are difficult to spray in herbal leys. This gives a local mosaic of crops which helps many of the wildlife by providing different habitats. The grass margins are not touched when they surround arable crops so grow dense and thatched with dead grasses which support voles, shrews and mice which in turn support predators such as the successful population of barn owls.